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Studio Heads Talk At Hollywood Games Summit

by Nick Breckon, Jun 27, 2007 4:56pm PDT
Related Topics – Blizzard, Ubisoft

Running a gamut that tends to be weighted towards the low end of the quality scale, movie-licensed games still represent a financial investment that is safer than most. Occasionally, the segment produces titles that perform well both at retail and with critics--Starbreeze's The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay stands out in many gamers' minds as such a title. These diamonds in the rough are somewhat less common among game-based movies, which have had a fairly unimpressive track record for years. Nonetheless, despite critical and financial resistance to many tie-ins, studios of both industries are intent on making progress, lured by the benefits of building on established properties. With that agenda in mind, executives and artists met at the Hollywood and Games Summit in Hollywood, California this week, discussing their successes and failures in adapting works originally meant for other artistic forms. Suggestions were shared and criticisms handed out--with massive amounts of money to be made, both sides of the table are looking for new strategies to compete for consumer dollars. "It's a portfolio approach," said Brash Entertainment co-founder Thomas Tull in a keynote address, according to the LA Times. Since its creation earlier this year, Brash has raised some $400 million to develop over 40 games based on movie properties. Tull also serves as CEO at Legendary Pictures, which has produced films such as Batman Begins and 300--the latter of which will soon see a game adaptation by Brash. "I have very strong feelings--from the movie side--that making movies based on games just because they sold well is a really bad idea," Tull said, according to Gamasutra. "There've been some like that that weren't up to snuff just out of the gate." In addition to the recently-revealed Diablo movie project, Legendary is currently at work producing a film based on Blizzard's Warcraft universe. Working within both industries, Tull has a unique perspective on the business. "I think some of the stuff that makes a game translate well into a movie is a good story," he said in reference to the World of Warcraft project, adding that Legendary is working directly with the game's designers and writers as they develop the picture. "If there's a lore, if there's a road and story and a world that's been created, and characters that are interesting in a way that's more than just point and shoot." As far as games go, Tull concedes that adaptation is a hard business to bank on. "It's difficult to predict with accuracy when you're going to end up with a hit," he admitted. "There's always an element of magic involved." Is it magic that produces a good game, or merely a concerted effort? "These types of games are done assembly-line fashion by people who are only interested in making money," said Jesse Alexander, an executive producer with credits on TV shows like Heroes and Alias. "Very often the products are inferior. And then the whole franchise suffers because people get a bad experience." What makes it so difficult to properly adapt a piece of work to the computer screen? The consensus seems to be that it is a lack of communication. "Most studios can make a really good movie in 10 to 12 months. Good games take a lot longer to make, sometimes up to two years," said Bill Kispert, vice president of Universal Pictures Digital Platforms Group. "Licensed games have a bad reputation, and it's probably well deserved." Kispert knows something about successful adaptations. He recently helped entice publisher Ubisoft to produce a game based on Universal's remake of King Kong, due in part to the promise of creative freedom for the game's developers. Rather than waiting until filming was finished to begin production, the game was developed concurrently with the film by famed designer Michael Ancel (Beyond Good & Evil, Rayman), who communicated directly with King Kong director Peter Jackson. The result was a game that achieved critical and financial success. "At the end of the day we're in the storytelling business," Tull concluded, stressing that collaboration is a necessary component of development. "The video game business had become so big and so prevalent that [directors] want to be involved in these games... [In the past] games have been treated by studios like lunchboxes or other merchandise, rather than having the VFX guys come and help with the games in the creative process. I think that day's about to come."




Comments

4 Threads | 13 Comments

  • I think part of the reason that Riddick kicked ass (the game) was because it didn't try to rehash the story from the movie, it actually filled in part of the story that you didn't see and fleshed out the storyline as a whole.

    Games based on movies would probably be a lot more interesting if they followed that formula instead of just making us do the same shit we saw in the movie. Well, that and decent writing. That one Matrix game has the right idea as far as storyline went, and probably would have been awesome if the game wasn't a buggy piece of shit.


  • I sure hope that a lot, and all of it good, came out of it; what I got from this article was a much greater hope for the attempts of the Blizzard games. Seeing what Legendary has released today, I can't help but to be excited...
    What's wrong with all these adaptations are that the focus is hell out of where it should be, as it was stated company see only the money that could be made, instead of being creative with what they have. That's killing the art.
    I do like the article, but do these conferences ever fill their purpose? I'm biased to believe that when they do this much work just to talk, whichever topic, you get so little of it.